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For Gen Z, A Sense of Purpose and Family Connection Contribute to Happiness

  • May 09, 2024
  • Children and Youth, Healthy living for mental well-being, Patients and Families

Much attention over the past few years has been paid to the challenges, struggles and anxieties of Generation Z (12- to 26-year-olds), but a few recent surveys and studies have focused more on what contributes to Gen Z happiness and life satisfaction.

A 2024 Gallup survey of more than 2,000 Gen Zers found that about three-quarters (73%) describe themselves as happy (very or somewhat). However, this percentage declines significantly as Gen Z reaches adulthood, dropping from 80% among teens 12 to 14 years old to 67% among young adults 21 to 23. Past Gallup research has found that happiness fluctuates with age, peaking among young adults and bottoming out in middle age.

group of Gen z individuals

The most influential driver of Gen Z’s happiness is their sense of purpose at work and school, according to the survey. Yet more than four in 10 Gen Zers do not feel what they do each day is interesting, important or motivating. Having enough time for sleep and relaxation are also important contributors to their happiness — those reporting enough time to sleep and relax were twice as likely to say they were happy than others. On the other hand, those who spent a lot of time comparing themselves to others were more likely to be anxious and less likely to be happy than their peers.

Along with happiness decreasing with age, Gen Zers' feelings of being loved, supported and connected declines as they age, decreasing from 84% for those 12 to 14 years old to 58% for those 21 to 23. In addition, while more than half are comfortable talking with their parents, that percentage also drops as they get older, from 68% among those under 18 to 48% for those over 18.

Research also points to the importance of family functioning and family bonds for youth happiness. A 2022 systematic review found a positive relation between family functioning (family communication, use of family rules, and the ways family members interact and work together) and happiness across different cultures and age groups. Greater family cohesion and open communication with parents were found to strongly predict children’s and adolescents’ happiness and were associated with higher levels of happiness and increased life satisfaction over time. The possibility to express oneself freely at home (i.e., to speak openly about any subject) was associated with greater life satisfaction for adolescents. On the other hand, communication problems and higher levels of family conflict were associated with lower happiness for children and adolescents over time.

Additionally, a 2021 study looked at the association of parenting style with experiencing symptoms of depression. The study found that an “affectionate and monitoring” style of parenting (nurturing, warm and supportive; maintaining awareness of youths’ whereabouts, conduct, and companions) was associated with lower risk for depression compared to “control style.” The study also found total household income had no significant association with adolescent depression.

Other researchers looked at the association between happiness and three key factors of emotional intelligence: attention to emotions (capability to feel and express feelings properly); emotional clarity (capability to understand one’s own emotional states): and emotional repair (capability to correctly regulate emotional states). They found that as the capacity for emotional intelligence increases, happiness also increases. They suggest the study results stress “the need to carry out practices leading to improvements in the adolescents’ emotional intelligence and therefore increase their happiness and emotional well-being.”


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